Monday, February 27, 2012

Fitting sleeves - it starts with an armhole

Would you agree that fitting takes the most time when working with a new style or pattern? Fit is one of the most important factors for the success of a couture garment, next to the design, fabric, construction and engineering. And for me, it is the most challenging step in the entire process of making a couture garment.

So, now I am working on the fit of V8646, the dress Susan Khalje chose for her online couture class. Fitting the bodice requires number of fitting steps, and the sequence is the key. I usually check the fit from the top to the bottom.  In the following fitting sequence I wanted to share some tips on armhole depth since I wanted to focus on sleeve fitting, and the correct armhole shape and size is very important.

1. Shoulder and Neckline - correct fit at the shoulders and the neckline is the foundation for the alignment of the dress. Start checking the neckline and proceed to the shoulder slope.

Establish the shoulder point. To find the shoulder point lift your arm at right angle to the side of your body and look for a dent where the arm and the shoulder comes together. This is quite location placement of the shoulder point.

2. Back width and armhole - Armholes are often cut too low in commercial patterns, so this is a very frequent alteration that should be done after the shoulder and neckline adjustment. After finding the shoulder point and correcting the shoulder length, start re-drawing the armhole line. (you will very likely need someone to help you with that. I do often end up doing it on my own - takes longer, but possible)

Armhole line should start vertically from the end of the shoulder seam on both, the front and the back. Continue drawing making a curve towards the side seam. The armhole should be as small as possible, but should not hamper your arm movement.

So, how low should the armhole be? High-cut armhole is more comfortable, because, by following the shape of the body, it allows wider range of movements.

The height of the armhole is determined with the help of the ruler. I read about it in a fitting book by Jan Minott (out of print unfortunately, but you can find affordable old copies on Amazon and elsewehre). Raise your arm at the right angle to your body and hold a ruler under your armpit. The lowest point of the armhole in a sleeveless garment should be just below the point where the ruler touches the flesh, or where the imaginary sideseam starts to curve under the arm.

In a garment with sleeves, drop the armhole depth some 1/2" (1cm to 1,5) lower. One of the factors you want to consider when determining the depth of the armhole is fabric characteristics: thickness, flexibility, etc... 

3. Darts - proceed checking the bust darts, waist darts, etc.

4. Bodice length - this is the last step in fitting the bodice.

I realize that there are maybe some deviations, but this rough sequence, recommended by many fit experts works for me. I hope it helps you too! By the way, a moulage - tightly fitted custom sloper - is an immense help, but making a moulage requires a lot of experience and help.

Finally, check this excellent article by Sarah Veblen: "To Get the Right Armhole, Fit the Bodice" on threadsmagazine.com

What about you, readers? Do you follow any particular fitting sequence? Share tips and links!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Gadgetmania: Rulers Part II by Laura Bolcina

Friends, did you think you knew enough about rulers? Well, today, Laura - who covered almost everything straight last week - guides us through curves... Ahem...

Hello! I'm back with Part II of my research. I will introduce you into the world of curves and present you one very useful tool.

24 in/60 cm hip curve helps you draw numerous contours of the human form. It's commonly used to draw hipline, trouser contour, sleeves, lapels, hemlines, skirt seams, and more. You can also use it to true different style lines (e.g. princess style line), establish curved shape of godets, and establish flares on gored garment panels.

French curves are used to draw a wide range of smooth curves. There are many, but Fairgate or Lance 12 in/32 cm and 24 in/60 cm French curves are said to be able to replace an entire set of French curves. Use them to draw more defined curves, such as armholes, necklines, sleeve caps, pocket contours, cuffs, collar designs, and so on. You can even use them to adjust waist and crotch fit of garments, and to true curved parts of darts. Curve #17 (Dietzgen, Lance FC-1, Pacific Arc F-17) is also a very common French curve – it's my favourite for drawing necklines and armholes.

The main difference between hip curve and French curve is in the shape of the curve. Hip curve is not as pronouncedly curved; it has a lesser curve than French curves. Hip and French curves are available at Lance and Fairgate. They're made of aluminium and are known for its high quality. The curves are also available in plastic for a little less cost.

Flexible or adjustable curve is a substitute for all of the curves above. You can shape it in any curve you want and use it for practically anything. Flexible curves come in various lengths. Alvin Truflex flexible curves look like a good choice.

Folding measure or expanding sewing gauge (SimFlex) is used for spacing buttons/button holes, hooks/eyes, pleats, tucks, and more. It's a very handy tool, because it gives quick and accurate measurements compared to a regular ruler.

That's it, thank you for reading; I hope you learned something new! And thank you, Marina, for having me here. :)


Thank you, Laura! This is an amazing review of rulers! My question this week is how many curved or straight things are too many? But I have to admit, I love them all! 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Sleeves, glorious sleeves!

Dear readers, a question for you: How or when do you start fitting sleeves?

The thing is, as I was working on the couture dress for Susan's class, I realized everyone does it differently
This is how I do it with a new style or pattern:
  • - fit the bodice (shoulders, armscye...)
  • - adjust the sleeve pattern to fit the adjusted armscye
  • - fit the sleeve with the bodice 
I think this sequence shortens the time I spend fitting sleeves, especially if there is no one to help with fitting. Alterations to the bodice can considerable change the shape and the size of the armscye, significantly affecting the fit of the sleeve. Making rough alterations on the pattern helps minimize fitting issues on the body.

So, how do you do it?!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Gadgetmania: Rulers by Laura Bolčina (Part 1)

Dear Readers! Meet Laura Bolčina of My Little Nook. I first saw Laura, a cultural studies graduate with passion for sewing and design,  featured on Burdastyle and then in the new Burdastyle book...  Her studio projects reflect her optimistic spirit and the one below is one of my favourites! Laura is someone who takes sewing tool sand notions seriously (check out her blog) and it comes as no surprise that she suggested not a one but two posts on rulers, readers. So, today we are treated to the Part 1 - enjoy it!

Hi! My name is Laura Bolčina and I am a self-taught seamstress from Slovenia, Europe. When Marina searched for guest bloggers, I was in the middle of the rulers “investigation”. I decided to contact her and she let me write about my subject. This post is all about the most useful rulers for patternmakers and seamstresses – and it is only Part I.

Wide 24 in/60 cm (or longer) clear ruler is used to draw longer parallel or perpendicular pattern marks and to locate grain lines and design details with regard to front closure, collar or lapel position of a pattern. It is indispensable for those of you, who make a lot of trouser patterns – for its length. If angle lines are marked on your ruler, you can use it to locate diagonal lines and establish or mark true bias (45°). Due to its length and transparency it is also very convenient to establish (bias) strips, basic waistbands, cuffs, and pockets. This ruler is available in various widths. Mine is 6 in/15 cm wide.

 Wide 12 in/30 cm or 14 in/35 cm clear ruler is used to mark and measure straight lines, mark parallel lines, pleats, tucks, and style lines. Transparency also helps you with establishing seam allowances on pattern pieces and marking the position of bound buttonholes and welt pockets. It is available in various widths as well. I think 4 in/10 cm wide is the most versatile.
As for clear rulers, Olfa Frosted Advantage line is my favourite. The rulers are made from durable acrylic plastic, are non-slip and the back side is frosted for clarity on both light and dark materials. Although I don't own any, Omnigrid rulers look like a good choice as well. Just make sure you check whether you're buying imperial or metric model.

Tailor's square – L square is an L shaped 90° angle ruler. Usually it is used to square off corners of pattern sections and draw perpendicular lines, levels (bust, waist, hip …), and reference points when patternmaking. It is also made to measure crotch depth on a model and to mark it on a pattern. Fairgate  and Lance produce quality rulers for designers if you're looking for one. I don't have a tailor's square yet and for some of the tasks a 6 in/15 cm wide clear ruler is a great substitute.

Regular 6 in/15 cm ruler comes in handy especially when larger rulers would be too big and clumsy. Use it to place grain lines or style lines on small pattern pieces and to mark and measure small garment pieces such as collars, pockets, cuffs etc.

Centre-finding ruler is a ruler with zero point at the centre and numbers increasing towards both ends of the ruler. Use it to find centres of pleats and darts, and to determine the placement of buttonholes and buttons or fasteners on double breasted garments. This ruler also helps you with measuring from the centre out to either edge.

Fairgate combines a regular ruler and centre-finding ruler, so you can buy one 6 in/15 cm centre-finding ruler instead of having to buy two separate.

I hope this helps you decide which straight ruler(s) you really need. Come back next Friday to read about curves!


Have discovered new rulers, readers? From the ones featured in Laura's post, I own 20x2 inch transparent ruler, and the L-ruler. Center finding ruler was a discovery for me, it can be a very practical tool, I can imagine. What rulers do you use in your sewing most frequently? 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Commenting for Wordpress users and Open ID restored

... hopefully!

Dear readers, thank you for letting me know that you were having problems commenting on my posts with Wordpress or Open ID. I have installed a widget that will allow you to post comments with Open ID - thanks, Tejaswini Dhavale, for a tip.  In addition, I enabled commenting for anyone. That means, however, that there may be more spam posted on the blog, so I had to switch to comment moderation.

Thanks to everyone for participating!

UPDATE on how to enable Wordpress/ Open ID comments:

There are two ways you can enable Wordpress comments again.  First one is by allowing comments to Anyone in your comment settings section, like on the form below. However, I would recommend to activate comment moderation if you want to avoid spam.

The one that I used is a widget by DISQUS.com. The DISQUS widget will disable your Blogger comments and will replace the original Blogger comment form with a disqus template. But no worries, they are all there - you will be able to see them on your Blogger dashboard. So, if you install disqus, make sure you import your existing comments through your disqus dashboard, otherwise you won't be able to view them. They will reappear on your blog within couple of hours, once the import has been completed. I must say, this is somewhat annoying, but at the end disqus comment form has somewhat more social template that gives you more options for interaction with and among the commenters. I hope this helps!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Ease #2: a-ha discovery (me embarrassed)

Readers, I might be stating an obvious fact, but based on your comments you also are not aware of the fact that Vogue Patterns do state the final garment circumference for the waist, bust and hips on their pattern sheets. Here is the proof:

So, there was no need to measure pattern pieces, ahem - I am embarrassed. I wasted time stated on the pattern anyway. The bust measurement for the finished garment is 94cm, waist 73cm. The body measurements are 87 and 67cm respectively. Which gives us 7cm ease

Apparently, all Vogue patterns are marked in the same way. So, here is the tip of the day: read instructions. It's all there: the circle symbol with a cross inside "indicates Bustline, Waistline, Hipline and/or Biceps. Measurements refer to circumference of Finished Garment (Body Measurement + Wearing Ease + Design Ease). Adjust pattern if necessary." A-ha - I will indeed.

For those who are wondering why this matters, read yesterday's post

Did you have an embarrassing moment in your sewing that you may not feel ashamed of to share?

Couture refashion: inspiration snaps

I haven't had inspiration posts for a while. But yesterday as I was cruising J.Crew.com site in search for a party dress for my daughter (J.Crew is one of my favourites for kids party clothes), I found a few interesting pieces for adults as well.

See, I got a very boring camel pullover in a desperate need of repair (couple of tiny holes). The color is too pale to suit me, and a pop up of color like on this J.Crew cardigan will give it an instant upgrade, don't you think so?

Source: {J.Crew}
The same is true for a few shirts in my wardrobe, which I haven't worn for months now. So this idea is an option. I don't think I would go for Swarovski crystals (it is a girlier alternative, I feel), but some other embellishment may work.

Source: {J.Crew}

This final image comes from my Pinterest board ( I am now really addicted to it!). A beautiful lace collar (from Louis Vuitton spring collection, I believe) adds a beautiful touch to an otherwise plain cropped pullover. Not my style either, but I love the combination! There are hundreds of beautiful vintage lace pieces on eBay that can be easily transformed for this style.

Do you refashion your clothes? Where do you find your inspiration?

Monday, February 13, 2012

Couture Dress WIP: taming the ease

Readers, as you know, I am working on a couture dress in Susan Khalje's online class on Craftsy.com. I was really excited to be a reviewer for the class, and so I decided to document my work in progress for you. The recommended V8648 arrived this Saturday...

...and yesterday, while marking all the seamlines on the pattern, I discovered an obvious fact.

I am talking about garment ease. Most of you will know that garment ease is the difference between our body measurements and the measurements of the finished garment. Depending on the fabric, garment ease can vary. Logically, the ease would be larger for loose silhouettes; and for fitted clothes made of stretch fabrics the measurements of the finished garment are often even less than body measurements (negative ease).

We know the basics, right? But I rarely bother to check the ease on the pattern. I usually do pattern alterations on a muslin ( I know it's not a good habit, but I am really more of a draper, really. Patterns frustrate me). Well, anyway, yesterday for the first time I paid conscious attention to the measurements on the pattern envelope, and, oh horror!.. Measurements for size 12 were way too small! and I have ordered sizes 6 to 12.

See yourself - the measurements for size 12:
  • Bust: 34" (87cm)
  • Waist: 26 1/2" (67cm)
  • Hip: 36" (92cm)
I don't even remember when I was that slim!!!! High school?

I was horrified because I realized I need some 5 cm (2 inches) more circumference. Grading up would mean more work, and I didn't want to order another pattern - so I went on and measured it. What I found out was that the Size 12 would not only fit snuggly, but it will provide 1 1/2 to 2" ease. How is it possible? The garment is described as a fitted dress. The difference of almost 4" between body measurements and the finished garment is too much, don't you think so?

I wanted to be sure and so, I went to voguepatterns.com and checked their ease chart. Here it is:

Right, 4" ease for a fitted garment!? I don't know why they do it, but I am usually much better off with  less than a half of this (3 cm or so). So, Size 12 would work at the end, but I will need to make sure that all the seams are where they are supposed to be.

Now, readers, are you all more diligent than me? Do you make pattern alterations before you cut into muslin or fashion fabric? What is your 'ease' experience with commercial or indie patterns? Please, leave comments! As for me, I am off to cut my couture dress muslin.

By the way, if you haven't heard of Susan's Couture Dress class, read this post and consider signing up. Craftsy.com was very generous to offer 50% discount to Frabjous Couture readers - don't miss it!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Sew Grateful: Tailored Jacket CD Giveaway

Readers, thank you - I reached another milestone - 300 followers in Google Friend Connect! I am so grateful for your interest and participation here, and the Sew Grateful Week, hosted by fabulous Debi, is just in time! I decided to join it and here is my first contribution: a giveaway

Tailored Jacket:
The Tailoring Techniques of Kenneth D. King

Tailored Jacket is an e-book documenting the process of creating a tailored jacket, from the cutting out to the finishing. With over 300 photos illustrating techniques in detail, the book covers among others
  • Materials and tools
  • Patternmaking to create the linings, facings, and other corollary pieces so that all pieces fit together perfectly
  • Interlinings
  • Complete construction of the garment, with "sidebars" at different points in the process. For example:
  • The perfect way to ease a sleeve cap
  • Constructing the notch lapel, as well as the shawl lapel.
  • Handling uneven shoulders
  • Constructing the lining, including installing the hidden lining pocket and piping
Thank you, Debi, for this great idea! Finally, thanks to my family for keeping up with hours of talk about couture sewing and my blog, listening to the stories about my fellow sewers and designers, living miles away but being present in my daily life for more than a year. Thank you, ladies (and gentlemen, of course) of Burdastyle, SewWeekly, PatternReview, and the Stitchers' Guild for welcoming me in your supportive and inspiring communities!

 I am always happy to see new subscribers, or followers, but it is not a pre-requisite! So, good luck, everyone! And, of course, I would love to hear your comments - just share what are you Sew Grateful for!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Gadgetmania: Dress Forms and Mannequins by Sew Ruth

Dear readers, this week in Gadgetmania it's all about dress forms. We all (?) know that a good dress form makes the process of fitting and sewing easier and faster! Ruth, our guest blogger this week, is in the process of choosing a new dress form for herself. She has made some research and now needs your help choosing one of the many options. Some of them are completely insane - see yourself!

I used to stand on the kitchen table in my half-made skirts and turn slowly while my husband pinned up the hem. With complete confidence in his decision I’d cut, trim and sew; try on and never wear the skirt in public.

Customers of the haute couture houses will have an exact body double made – I need one of those.

When the Fashion Department at work were having a clear out, there, lying drunkenly and partly obscured behind fraying embroidery projects and garish costumes was Doris. Brown with age, watermarked, frayed around her neck and arms and tattooed about the chest area with a red felt-tip pen, she was indeed a sorry sight. This girl needed clothes and I could give them to her. With permission of a long-term loan, I took Doris home, patched up the frayed areas, put a T-shirt on her and installed her in the sewing room and all of a sudden I was transformed into an atelier at 31 Rue Cambon.

There are still problems. Doris is from the early 1960s but maybe earlier and is 38”, 26”, 36” - real hourglass and sexy – not like me at all. Made by Yugin and Sons, London, I actually think she was really intended for display purposes, not fitting. Below is the Vogue Patterns measurement chart and Doris fits across three sizes (as do I but not the same three as Doris).

32 1/2
26 1/2
34 1/2


I have been thinking of replacing her. I should have a dress-form that resembles me but which one? I’ve done some research and need your guidance on the best choice.

Top of the Range

Seigel & Stockman make for the French Haute-Couture industry. Their forms can be made to an individual's exact body measurements.

These artist designed models retail at €2.200 and they’re all sold!

The Italian MD Studio produce a range called Manicini – they can provide a snake skin covered version if you want, but I don’t think you can stick pins in it.

If you think Doris’s shape is 50 years old of date, what about a 1895 dress form for those of you who have a 16” waist. This genuine Stockman mannequin is available from http://www.vintagestylemannequins.co.uk/

Kennett & Lindsell, UK, use high tech electronic scans of real people to produce an average dress form for women of the 21st century – including my favourite – the oversized version →

Mid Range Options

This is a Chil-Daw mannequin, made in England. It’s adjustable and a wonderful colour but I’m not sure about pin stickability. She doesn’t have any hips either. You have to buy vintage as Chil-Daw are no longer in business.

Modern and adjustable: this model is PerfectFit from Adjustoform – she even comes with a hem marker too. No more standing on the kitchen table then…

And finally……..
The duct tape dress form – nothing left to say really.


Thank you, Ruth, for this amazing research!

Readers, which dress form do you vote for? I am all for the snake-skin Manicini! as a second choice after the professional dress form, of course! The problem that I see with Doris, is that the bust is fuller than Ruth's. Otherwise, I would have padded the form where it is "skinnier" and continue using it! Your opinions?!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Busy week's posting and finished project-s!

Readers, despite the light posting, another cold and taking care of my daughters I did sew this week! Hence the image quality - quick work with my iPhone  (see the weird halo effect?) so, proper snapshots with me wearing this are coming! Voilà, le Sencha floral!

And, yes, I did hand-overcast all seams!

This makes the second garment off my twelve-items-transitional-wardrobe-SWAP list this year - very proud! I pledged to buy new fabric only after I finish three garments? Hmmm... Yesterday, I went to Paron's and bought more (they have moving sale now and everything is 40% off). But more about it later! And, I just realized, I haven't blogged about my SWAP! I got to catch up!

What are you working on? Any classes? Challenges? Sew-Alongs? Do share good stuff!

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